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Burns Night at Glanvilles Wootton

In January, before the snow and ice, a hearty crowd of revellers toasted the bard of Scotland and enjoyed an absolutely delicious meal. Tales were told, laughter was heard and very discrete and moderate drinking took place. Louise Dutton and her band of slaves were entirely responsible for the great success of the event. You’d only get sad if you missed next year’s bash …

The evening raised £1,200 for the Sherborne Deanery Rural Chaplaincy project, headed up by the Rev Richard Kirlew.

County & District Councillor’s April Report

As I write this we are about to be the subject of another amber weather warning with snow forecast for Sunday and Monday – and by the time you read this we will all know the outcome…. but it sounds as if my third attempt to celebrate my birthday with a meal out with friends is going to be thwarted, such are the delights of living in rural Dorset in winter, but it does not happen often. Hopefully the Highways Department will perform as well as most people felt they did earlier in March. I was given a number of complements to pass on to our local Highways people for the efficient way they got out and gritted during the earlier cold spell, as opposed to the complaints I more usually get. They planned well and did a very good job, with staff working through the nights to keep us moving safely. One complaint I did get was from someone who could not understand why the schools planned to close before a single snowflake had dropped – by that afternoon it was very apparent why they had taken that decision, as the snow came relentlessly down. In the old days children may have walked three miles through the snow to school but many of our children live rather more than three miles away and the school transport was taken off because the warning was for only essential journeys to be made. Few parents would permit their children to walk three miles through the snow to school nowadays and we live in a far more litigious society if the school transport went wrong. I do have one real complaint about that snow… it was impossible to make snowballs out of.

Not only can our part of the world be a risky place because of the inclement weather but most recently it has been a dangerous place because of the outside world giving us a rude awakening. Sturminster Newton was shocked by an early morning armed robbery at the One Stop Shop which we now believe may have been committed by two local people. It must have been very frightening for the shop staff. A few days later a local hairdressers had their door kicked in overnight and I am told had shampoos stolen …. obviously someone who was so proud of their hair was concerned that they had run out of shampoo and could not wait until the shop opened. Then on top of that Gillingham was in a state of lock down with armed police, soldiers and firemen swarming over it when the recovery vehicle used to move the Russian spy’s car ended up there and was believed to have been contaminated with nerve agent. Our reserve firemen have been moved to cover for the Salisbury firemen who are involved in the clean up operation. When two unrecognised police turned up outside and then inside our medical centre and escorted someone out we had all added two and two together and made five before they had even got in their car.

During the month of March I seem to have had lot of 12 hour plus days of Councillor duties. As well as our normal meetings which involved a lot of pre-meeting reading, I sit as a trustee on several bodies. In one case in particular I found myself involved in a staff appointment which became more complicated and unpleasant than could possibly have been imagined. In the old days Councillors went onto Boards because they gave gravitas but really did not need to do anything except turn up every few months and issue words of wisdom. Nowadays we live in a very different world where Trustees are expected to really get involved by taking on responsibility for pieces of work in between times. It is all very time consuming if you want to do a good job and pull your weight but without volunteers to take these roles our community life would be much poorer.

When I wrote last month we were expecting a government announcement that the 9 local authorities of Dorset were to become two General Purpose Authorities, otherwise known as a Unitary Authority. That announcement has now come. Those of us who hope to be involved in the rural Dorset Council are taking part in the creation of the new body, whilst also being involved in the on-going work of the current councils. As I have said before the new Dorset Council we believe will consist of 82 Councillors rather than 206 which means financial savings to the electorate but more work for those individuals. Even so, if anyone is brave enough to feel this is something they want to do now is the time to make yourself known to your political party of choice or to get guidance from the Democratic Services section of the District Council.

One exciting new project I am pleased to support is the Community Shop in Sturminster, a charity shop with a difference, i.e.selling good quality pre-used goods, books, crafts and holding tourist and local information, aiming to be at the heart of the community. The intention is to raise funds to be used to improve the look of Sturminster, for example putting money towards improved floral displays in the summer, repainting those railings on the entrance to town (again), supporting the Christmas decorations; improving the signage in town…. all those things that the Town Council would like to do but cannot afford. The shop will open on Easter Saturday and thereafter be opened six days a week, 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.

Surgeries and door knocking in April:

Saturday 7th April 9.30 p.m. door knocking in Glanvilles Wootton; 10.30 a.m. Surgery and Coffee Morning Pulham Village Hall; 11.30 a.m. Surgery in The Exchange Coffee Bar, Sturminster Newton
Saturday 14th April 10.30 a.m. Hilton Coffee Morning
Saturday 21st April, door knocking in Hazelbury Bryan; 11.00 ish Mud Pie Cafe, Okeford Fitzpaine.

Preferred e.mail address – cllr.p.batstone@btinternet.com
Phone – 01258 472583 Twitter @paulinebatstone Facebook Page – Councillor Pauline Batstone

County & District Councillor’s March Report

The trouble with living in our part of the world is that there is just so much going on you cannot go to everything….or if you did you would get very fat. We seem to be going through a phase where every village is starting up a coffee morning or similar event, plus the occasional breakfast. Okeford Fitzpaine has its weekly “Mudpie Cafe” on Saturday mornings in the village hall, Pulham is having bi-monthly Saturday coffee mornings, Hilton has a monthly Saturday coffee morning in the church, Hazelbury Bryan is doing a Monday morning Coffee morning monthly, Ansty does one on the first Thursday, Tea and Chat Groups meet monthly in Pulham and Hazelbury, and Lydlinch and Glanvilles Wootton do the occasional full English Breakfast. Okeford Fitzpaine also did a “Welcome” event to newcomers to the village for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon where the village organisations had stalls to publicise themselves. Its really good that so much social activity is going on in our rural area, bringing communities together for a pleasant hour or so whilst raising money for the village and offering social contact to some who may be lonely. From a Councillor’s point of view it is a very good way of just meeting people and learning about life in their village and hamlet, rather than only being contacted when there is a crisis. And the home-made cakes are always plentiful and excellent. Thank you to all those reliable local volunteers who work so hard to make the cakes, run the raffles and serve the refreshments on the day.

This winter has been a bad one for colds and ‘flu’ with vaccination seeming to have had no preventative effect. It is important we keep an eye on our neighbours, especially the ones of more mature years who may be alone, to see if they need any groceries, or yet more paracetamol, or just cheering up.

As I write this the local authorities are still holding their collective breath waiting to hear from the Secretary of State for Local Government whether the local government reorganisation will go ahead in 2019. The situation has been made complex because of Christchurch Borough Council and their MP’s determination to fight the proposal that they should merge with Bournemouth and Poole. Whether or not that happens there will be elections in 2019 either for a new authority or the same old one. As Chairman of a Constituency political Association I am concerned that we should recruit people to stand as Councillors who have the energy to move local government forward so that we don’t just have “the same old” bunch of people. I am sure the other political parties are similarly occupied. I have been a councillor in Dorset now for almost 23 years and I still enjoy it so I will also be throwing my hat into the ring again, but it does rather take over your life. We need people who are committed to promoting the wellbeing of their local area as well as able to take a strategic view across Dorset (and also to read a tremendous amount of material). Training is given and expenses paid. If you, or someone you know, has been thinking that they would like to be a Councillor then this is the time to make yourself known to your political party of choice who will help you through the process, or to talk to Democratic Services at either County Hall or the Dorset Council’s partnership for more information. It is likely that there will be 82 Wards under the Rural Dorset Unitary authority rather than the 200+ Councillors serving the same area currently. Those Wards are likely to be half the size of a current County Division but that one Councillor will be operating alone, without the support of District Councillors as now. Fortunately we do have hard working people at Parish level to spread the load.

One minor triumph in my life as a councillor is seeing that the Sovereign Housing Association have finally made an extra parking space for their tenants at Mead Corner, Glanvilles Wootton. This is a long going saga involving inconvenience for those tenants and also danger for drivers using that road who may find cars parked just round a blind bend. This has come about as the result of on-going nagging on the part of a number of people including the tenants and the Parish Chairman. So thank you Sovereign. We do have a similar problem in Ibberton but that currently seems even more intractable.

In Sturminster Newton we are about to start planning for next Christmas. Each year we have tried to do a bit better, as far as our Christmas events are concerned. I am calling a meeting of all those who have played a part previously, and a few new ones, to see what we can come up with for this year, to make Stur. sparkle even more in the festive season.

All the local authorities have now fixed their Council Tax precept for 2018-19 and it is no surprise that the major bodies have all gone for the maximum increase in Council Tax which they are allowed without calling a referendum. As I have said before, the biggest consumer of your County Council Tax payments is Adult Social Care followed closely by Children and Families Care. I accept that our rural roads are in a sad and sorry state from potholes. Highways have had their budget severely cut because of the money going into social care. However, I still urge you to ensure you report potholes either via phone or the dorsetforyou website because repairs will be done once the Highways Department know about them, prioritised in accordance with size and position. That data from reporting is valuable as information to support Highways requests for more financial help from central government.

Surgeries and door knocking in March:

Saturday 3rd March – 9.30 door knocking around Glanvilles Wootton; 10.30 surgery in Pulham Village Hall, 11.30 surgery in The Exchange, Sturminster Newton
Saturday 17th March – Hazelbury Bryan door knocking

Regrettably I cannot visit the Hilton or Okeford Fitzpaine Coffee Mornings this month because of other commitments.

Preferred e.mail address: cllr.p.batstone@btinternet.com
Phone: 01258 472583
Post: Elvlyn Cottage, Glue Hill, Sturminster Newton, DT10 2DJ
Twitter: @paulinebatstone
Facebook Page: Councillor Pauline Batstone

County & District Councillor’s February Report

February, and the last of the Christmas Decorations are finally taken out of the Church on Candlemas, 2nd February. Candlemas was the time when the church candles for the coming year were blessed. It was, or is, also a day when in the countryside farms changed hands, rents were paid and we moved forward into a new planting season.

Local government is also moving forward as I said in my last blog. The closing date for comments on the proposed new Unitary Structure was the 8th January. Eight of the nine Dorset first and second tier councils support the new structure of one Rural Unitary Authority and one Urban Authority, with Christchurch Borough Council preferring the existing two tier structure. In my opinion my Christchurch colleagues seem to have decided to turn a blind eye to the impossible financial situation which their alternative proposal would place the Dorset local authorities in. If the unitary structure is not adopted the rural District and Borough Council’s will struggle to stay afloat for long with the financial restraints being tightened upon them and the County will struggle even more, with the risk of not being able to balance its budgets. The savings we hope to make will come from reductions in central and management services and in premises, which can be shared between the authorities. In the event of the County in effect going broke, the presumption is the government would take over its responsibilities for a period of time – whether it would give itself more money to do so with more money is unknown.

The County is working hard to reduce the costs of child care by recruiting more of its own foster parents and making less use of the considerably more expensive private agency foster parents. There are also to make more provision within the County for children who need special care. In particular there are plans to reopen Bovington School as a special needs school to complement those already in the County. Anyone interested in fostering our Dorset children should contact Children’s Services at County Hall.

All of us , as we age, need to think about how we keep ourselves fit for longer, and the care we need as we grow frailer. The County Council is promoting a campaign at present to make us all more aware of how we can help ourselves under the heading “My Life, My Care”, planning for our future care, and it is never too early to start looking after our health and our finances. Elderly care is the biggest item in the County’s budget and it is dictated by people’s own demands, beyond the control of the organisation. The only thing that can be done is to endeavour to persuade people to think about how they can help themselves, with the County being the last point of call, rather than the first.

On a more positive note, thinking of the other end of the age spectrum, there is good news that Stepping Stones, the pre-school based at The William Barnes Primary School in Sturminster Newton, has been awarded almost £75,000 towards its target of £93,000 to build an extension to its premises. With other funds the staff have raised this will enable to extension to go ahead. The aim is to increase the number of places available for local children, although the demand is likely to still outstrip availability. More children to enter the pre-school will also mean more children coming to the William Barnes and in turn to more on to the High School which is important for the future of our local schools. The money comes from the North Dorset LEADER Funding, which is European Union funding. As well as more places for children, three more jobs will be created plus the offer of apprenticeships.

I have been in discussion with the Sturminster Newon High School about the possibility of acquiring a multi-use astroturf pitch on their site. The idea would be a surface which can be used for a range of ball games, in particular hockey which the High School currently do not have a pitch for. It would not be suitable for football matches but could be used for football practice. It could be used by the school in school time and the community for the rest of the time. Funds would be raised by charges for its use. It this is to go ahead it will have to be a partnership between public and charitable bodies, in this case the High School, Football Club and SturFit. It will be necessary for the funding to come from a variety of grant sources and for a charity to apply for them. These are early days but I think this is not unreasonable to achieve.

I have written before of the work being done by some hard working enthusiasts to promote the idea of a National Park for Dorset. They have now achieved the next stage of Natural England formally assessing the proposal later this year. My own view is that we have much to gain in North Dorset, providing that the market towns and surrounding area are included in a National Park, as well as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The experience of those living in the National Park in Sussex would seem to support the view that this has benefitted the area economically and also, perhaps surprisingly, has increased the amount of social housing for local people.

I have decided that I will no longer do monthly surgeries in Glanvilles Wootton and Hazelbury because virtually no one ever comes to see me, preferring to phone or e.mail or make arrangements to meet rather than just dropping in. Therefore in those villages I will set aside the time as now but go and knock on doors – if people will not come to me, I must go to them. The Surgeries in Pulham and Sturminster Newton do work, as people do drop in, and also in Pulham, Okeford Fitzpaine and Ansty I am able to meet people at their coffee mornings.

 

Surgeries in February:

Saturday 3rd Feb. – 9.30 a.m. Glanvilles Wootton door knocking; 10.30 a.m. Pulham Village Hall; 11.30 The Exchange, Sturminster Newton.
Saturday 10th 10.30 a.m. Hilton Coffee Morning
Saturday 17th – 9.30 a.m. Hazelbury Bryan door knocking; 10.45 a.m. Okeford Fitzpaine Village Hall

Preferred e.mail address – cllr.p.batstone@btinternet.com
Phone 01258 472583
Post – Elvlyn Cottage, Glue Hill, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, DT10 2DJ
Twitter @paulinebatstone Facebook Page Councillor Pauline Batstone

County & District Councillor’s December Report

November was been a busy month with County Council Committees and Parish/Town Meetings and that continued Into December. In particular, as well as keeping the “day job” going, work is also underway to prepare for the new shape of local government in 2019 .

The County has set up a Special Education Needs Delivery Board to endeavour to improve the service to given to parents and children with Special Educational Needs. I found myself standing in for the Chairman of that Board at the beginning of November. We have an increasing number of young people being put forward by their parents/carers for assessment as having special educational needs but the amount of money we get from central government to help those young people remains the same. Therefore the finances are spread more thinly. In particular more parents and carers are asking for education health and care assessments to be completed which is a complex process requiring the input of Educational Psychologists of whom we do not currently have enough for this purpose . An additional one-off grant of £1.4m has now been promised which will enhance what can be done. There is also now a banding process to decide what support should be given, which I have yet to get my head around. My own view is that the whole system is increasingly complex and I admire any parent who manages to navigate it. I have the same view of the process for applying for school places and the ensuing process of getting school transport. It was all so much simpler when you simply went to the nearest school. Even more difficult is the problem of young people being required to stay on in education or training for the years 16 to 18 where there is no help with transport. Therefore the decision of what courses to follow may be swayed by the availability of transport. I have every admiration for parents trying to find their way through the labyrinth of a system. What I would advise anyone struggling with the system is to ask their County Councillor for their help and support, especially with Appeals.

On a much lighter note, we have had fun here in Stur. before Christmas with a Living Advent Calendar of Shop and Business windows. Each night a different shop or business has unveiled a festively decorated window, generally launched with mulled wine and mince-pies within the premises. This has led to what I have called a “peripatetic party”, meeting each evening, some people always there, some new faces, following the windows round. Hopefully this will lead to some extra business for the shops involved and certainly makes for some good window displays during the Christmas period. The Christmas Producers Market this year was run by the Anonymous Traveling Market which made things much easier for those of us who have been promoting this event over the past three years. There was a range of foodstuff and craft goods in the street, complementing the regular Craft Market in the Exchange. The profits from the Craft Market, on the first Saturday of the month, have gone towards the Christmas tree lights, and again the tree looked very lovely, thanks to the business “Christmas Decorations” who provide the lights and keep an eye on the tree during that period. We did not have garlands across the road because of the enormous cost of being compliant with the requirements of the insurance company. The shops put up their Christmas trees but we hope to make the process easier for them next year by offering a package to get them in place. Each parish has had its own events which add to the fun of Christmas in the countryside.

As winter settles in the complaints about floods on roads, blocked drains and potholes increase in number. I would urge people to report any complaints or concerns directly to the County Council Highways Department either via dorsetforyou or over the phone to Dorset Direct at County Hall on 01305 221000. That way it gets directly to the iPad of our Community Highways Officer, Paul Starkey, who will be onto the problem with the tenacity of a terrier. It also goes into the database of the Council which it has used successfully to get additional grant funding from central Government into Dorset. Move roads funding has recently been promised by government which should help us.

We now move forward to an exciting New Year. Dorset, particularly North Dorset, is a lovely place and we are hoping to promote our area more effectively to those who wish to visit and spend their time and money here by setting up a Tourist Association. We intend to develop a branding for The Blackmore Vale, which businesses can engage with to promote themselves. I keep reminding my colleagues that the Blackmore Vale is not just the property of Dorset but also runs into South Somerset and we need to be working with colleagues there as well.

 

I wish you all a happy New Year and a good, healthy and prosperous 2018 to come.

Surgeries in January 2018
Saturday 6th January 9.30 a.m. – Glanvilles Wootton knocking on doors; 10.30 a.m. Pulham Village Hall; 11.30 The Exchange, Sturminster Newton.
Saturday 13th 10.30 a.m. Hilton Coffee Morning
I shall not be doing my surgery at Hazelbury Bryan in January as I hope to be in India at that time.
I hope to visit the Mud Pie Café in Okeford Fitzpaine when I return.

Preferred e.mail address – cllr.p.batstone@btinternet.com
Phone 01258 472583
Post – Elvlyn Cottage, Glue Hill, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, DT10 2DJ
Twitter @paulinebatstone Facebook Page Councillor Pauline Batstone

County & District Councillor’s October Report

The Harvest Festival Season is over – with great effort being put in at all our villages to mark the event in their different ways. The days of our churches being packed by those who worked on the land, or supported those who did, are over but the old festivals have much to offer those who have come to live in our villages, they are still an important part of binding our communities together.

By the time you read this we will be well on the way to Advent and Christmas and the village celebrations which go with that. In Sturminster Newton we are working towards the switch on of the Christmas Lights on the tree on the 2nd December, as part of our Christmas celebration with a Producers Market in the streets and Craft Market at the Exchange, Lantern Parade, Choir and of course Father Christmas and his Elf (who bears a striking resemblance to a well-known local solicitor) in their Grotto. Unfortunately there will be no garlands across the street this year, not because of “elfin safety” but because of the costs of public liability insurance when the garlands have to be strung from old buildings. As I said in my last “blog” simply to satisfy the insurance company by doing a professional “stress test” will cost towards £800 and have to be redone every three years. So no garlands of lights. In compensation we will be having the usual big tree, small trees on the buildings and an Advent Calendar of Decorated Windows.

The trouble with any of these town events is raising the money to run them, insurance and road closure notices being a large part of the cost. They are not something charities will fund, or grants pay for in total, nor can the Town Council afford to pay for them. The sort of events I mean are the Christmas event, having more flowers in the town in the summer, painting the railings and similar street furniture around the town to keep it looking nice, publicising the town. A small group of us in Sturminster are considering the possibility of running a community shop specifically to help pay for such activities. We plan a shop selling good quality items including local craft work and perhaps clothes on an agency basis. We are fortunate to have a successful local retailer as a Project Team Member and advisor. We also plan renting facilities to charities and organisations who may want some desk space or a meeting room. It may also be possible to have a cash dispenser although another one is about to go into town at the former Barclays building.

Sadly our last remaining bank, Lloyds closed at the end of September but they are sending a mobile bank to the Library Carpark on three days of the week (12.30 to 15.15 on Mondays and Fridays and 9.30 to 11.30 on Wednesdays, with NatWest also sending a mobile on Friday mornings to the Station Road Car Park. The mobiles appear to be well used. The post office is also working hard to fill the void left by the loss of Banks, and offers private customers the opportunity to draw out and pay in money. Of course where there are post offices in the villages they are also able to offer those facilities. The people who are finding it hardest to adapt to the loss of the Banks are the businesses who either take large quantities of cash or need cash, although I notice that some are being mutually supportive.

I spent an interesting afternoon with young people from across Dorset at the recent Youth Voice Summit Event. The event was organised by the Youth Council and aimed to identify what the main local issues are which worry our young people and to give them the tools to influence those issues. The main problem raised by all ages was that of transport in our rural area or rather the lack of public transport, for which there is no easy answer. The would-be users of transport in the rural area are of all ages, tend to be spread over wide areas and have a variety of needs which cannot be met by bus services in the way that they can in urban areas. Community transport tends to be seen as only for old people but there is no reason younger people cannot hire buses from our local community transport scheme, Nordcat, providing they can raise the funds – it needs a bit of creative thinking. Another partial solution is sharing transport whenever possible. For those over 16 who have sufficient money the Wheels to Work Scheme enables them to pay a monthly sum to buy a moped or motor bike and the necessary kit, insure it and ultimately to own it. Details can be obtained from the SturQuest Office.

Finally a plea to any former pupils of Lord Digby’s School, Sherborne which gave way to the Gryphon School in 1992. Next year will be 100 years since the Old Girls Association was founded and we are planning an extra special Founders Day Service at the Abbey on 12th May, 2.30 p.m. followed by a Reunion Tea at the Eastbury Hotel. Anyone is welcome to the Abbey and indeed to the Eastbury, but the latter needs to be booked in advance and I fear we will have to put a limit on numbers. The Founders Day Service is shared with the Old Fosterians. I know a number of year groups are planning their own reunions to coincide with that weekend. We will be producing a special edition of the Old Girls Association Magazine for May and are looking for people’s own stories about their time at the school. We are also trying to do a history of the uniform through the ages – any contributions welcome. So if you went to Lord Digby’s and you want to know more please get in touch with me – friends and family also welcome.

Surgeries in November
Saturday 4th 9.30 a.m. – Glanvilles Wootton Village Hall; 10.30 a.m. Pulham Village Hall; 11.30 The Exchange, Sturminster Newton.
Saturday 11th 10.30 a.m. Hilton Coffee Morning
Saturday 18th – 9.30 a.m. Hazelbury Bryan Village Hall; 10.45 a.m. Okeford Fitzpaine Village Hall
Preferred e.mail address – cllr.p.batstone@btinternet.com
Phone 01258 472583
Post – Elvlyn Cottage, Glue Hill, Sturminster Newton, Dorset, DT10 2DJ
Twitter @paulinebatstone Facebook Page Councillor Pauline Batstone

Music for a Summer’s Evening – Sunday 17th September

The very charismatic violinist, Andrew Bernardi, Sally Clarke’s brother-in-law, very generously offered to come down from West Sussex to play his Stradivarius to help raise much needed funds for our church. The date was set, posters printed, leaflets delivered and adverts placed and what a response we got. The concert was completely sold out with people sitting in every available space. As someone remarked “so lovely to see the church full other than for a funeral or a wedding”! The pieces Andrew played included J.S. Bach movements from the “Sonatas and Partitias for unaccompanied violin”, Sir Edward Elgar’s “Salut d’Amore”, Fritz Krielser’s “Prelude and Allegro” and Ralph Vaughan Williams “The Lark Ascending”. Accompanying him quite beautifully on piano was Amanda Slogrove from Sherborne.

Andrew had been quite happy to play for the entire evening but the committee thought that a pure violin concert may be a little too much for some so we search around for a singer/choir. How lucky were we find Amelia Kelly-Slogrove who, at only 15 years old, has a wonderful voice. Her pieces included Henry Purcell’s “If Music be the food of Love”, “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz and “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. Amelia is currently studying for her GCSEs at The Gryphon School in Sherborne and is planning to audition for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain in November so we wish her all the best for her future music career.

During the interval we were treated to a glass of Prosecco from Waitrose (they did us a good deal!).

We cannot begin to thank Andrew enough for not only performing so brilliantly but for all his advice and support in the lead up to the concert. Finally I would like to thank the committee of Richard Clarke, Pat Harris, Lucy Parrott and Louise Sandy who worked so hard to make this such a success and put up with me being rather bossy!